To the women I admire most in the world

International Women's Day is a day of recognition that I honestly wasn't aware of (isn't that a shame?) until about two years ago. In all the years I've worked for and with women, this day was never brought up or recognized. 

Back in the days when I worked for the State of Florida, when my mother and I were employed in the same bureau, I had the absolute pleasure of working with a group of women who I liked personally and professionally a great deal. Many of these ladies were, in fact, also old enough to be my mother and in true Southern style they didn't mind telling me what they thought or what to do. (I even went to school with one of the women's two daughters.) I dubbed them my Ten Moms. I still miss the camaraderie I had with those ladies. I miss them period. Sadly, my mother and other that I know of have  passed away in the years since I moved to Canada. Time moves on and so have I but the memories I have of the first women I looked up to in the workplace will stay with me. I am so blessed to have two truly wonderful women to work with in my part-time job - they are lovely, funny and awesome. I couldn't have picked better if I'd had to choose myself. 

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Getting involved online has opened up my world to many people, places and things. There's the obvious fact that I met a guy and moved from Florida to Canada to be with him. But that doesn't count on International Women's Day. What does count are the women like Lara, Sara, Vicky, Donna and Barbara who were the original Losing it in Ottawa gang. Most of us were strangers one day and friends the next. Though we've gone on to do other things for the most part, I still count them as friends and admire their chutzpah. Seriously, when you admit your struggles as openly and honestly as we did, it takes guts.

Karen & Lara-0016.jpg

One person who I definitely haven't been separated from in that group is my business partner, Lara. After founding Losing it in Ottawa together, we worked together to start Social Capital Conference. When she needed a new partner for Kids in the Capital, I said yes. The only thing we weren't doing together was consulting - and then we were. I've had a lot of co-workers that I've clicked with and worked well with, but Lara's different. It's like we feed off each other. Ideas burst forth and we seem to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. We can tease each other about our eccentricities and quirks. A mutual friend, Jordan, has often called us Statler and Waldorf for our twitter conversations that happy when we're feeling goofy and loopy. I admire Lara for many reasons, but the one that is most clear is that she knows what she wants and she isn't afraid to go after it. She's the best kind of partner to have in business.

In general, I don't get starstruck by people who are public figures, but there are people I've come to know through social media that I definitely get starstruck with. I'm still embarrassed when I think about my giddiness meeting women like Amber Mac and Gini Dietrich. I look up to them and respect them as women who are contributing value to their respective fields. Gini, in particular, is someone I follow with great interest because she's so down-to-earth, approachable and she's just plain good at what she does. Also, when I have employees, I hope I'm half the boss she is. Or maybe I should just convince her to let me work for her too. ;)

Ultimately, the women I admire are not famous. They aren't doing outrageous things for attention. They are being who they are, doing what they do the best they can and being awesome at it. This is merely a select few women that have influenced me in my life and I haven't even talked about the most influential woman in my life much in this post. My mother helped shape the person I am more than any other woman in my life. There is no doubt that I was incredibly blessed to have her for a mom.

Who are the women you admire in your life? Make sure they know today!

Day 12 - Something you never get compliments on.

Photo Credit: Kym Shumsky (Relishing.ca)My hands.

They are my mom’s hands. I see her mannerisms when I talk with them or go through the motions of my day. 

I was a nail-biter for so many years that I hid my hands as much as possible. I knew they were ugly.

I kicked that habit a very long time ago, but my hands are still fat (large-boned) with short, stubby fingers and I would say they’re incredibly average.

And that just may explain why I don’t get complimented about them.

Five years of missing...

Debbie Chapman 1949-2006Last November, I hit the milestone of ten years living in Canada. In December, Matt and I celebrated ten years of being married. In August, we’ll celebrate ten years since our wedding day.

These milestones have been happy ones, associated with happy times and good changes.

But there’s one milestone that I mark this week has my stomach in knots and I’m not sure how to stem the tide of tears that are waiting to flow.

Five years she’s missed…

…the joyous news that we were having a baby.

…talking to me after his birth, learning his name.

…hearing about or seeing his escapades.

…holding him, hugging him, loving him.

…sharing in the moments of pride over his accomplishments.

…giving advice when he s sick or presenting his parents with a challenge to overcome.

…laughing when he says something funny.

Five years we’ve missed…

…her presence in our lives.

It’s hard to imagine a harder time to lose your mom, but it’s hard no matter when it happens. There’s never a time in life when you don’t need and want your mom around.

I miss my mom for a million reasons, but the one that brings the most acute sense of sorrow is knowing my son will learn about her only through pictures and stories that I share. I knew my mom and I knew how much she d love any child of mine.

Brandon doesn’t know her now, but he will.

Saturday nights with Mom

Christmas 1979 - Probably the first documented evidence of Mom indulging in my clotheshorse tendencies.I had to go to the drug store tonight to pick up a few things and I got quite distracted on the cosmetics aisle. I probably only spent about 15 minutes looking, but it made me think of my mom. When I was a teenager, my dad worked in one or the other of the family’s businesses as a truck driver, taking two runs a week up to Atlanta to pick up produce. One of the runs was over Saturday night/Sunday. So, many times when my younger brother went on Dad’s run with him, Mom and I would hang out together. I’d help her get her materials ready for Sunday school (she taught the 3 year olds).

By the time we were done getting the arts and crafts stuff finished, it was usually fairly late. Even though we had to get up early the next morning, we’d head over to the 24 hour Albertsons on Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee. (Publix was our favorite grocery store, but Albertsons had more cosmetics - and they were open longer.) We lived in the west end of town, so getting to Albertsons required a trip to the other side of town - not that Tallyland is all that big! We’d usually pick up a treat for a midnight snack - most often lemon meringue pie - and then head over to the cosmetics. We checked out everything, from eye shadows, to blush, to nail polish and went through all the different brands and then pick up a few things to experiment with.

Hindsight is definitely 20/20, because now I know my mom probably had only marginal interest in our trips to look at make up - she went because she enjoyed spending time with me. Mom was never into girly things like dressing up and make up, doing hair, etc. She liked to feel good about the way she looked, but she put less importance on it than I did.  I tended to be a fairly “typical” teenage girl who was overly absorbed with how I looked, never leaving the house without being made up and “looking good”.  “Looking good” is relative since I doubt I had a good sense of what actually suited me in those days.

Now that Mom is gone, the memories I have of those times with her - going shopping, helping her find clothes and makeup I “approved” of, enjoying our guilty pleasures (mmm…pie) - mean so much more to me now that time has altered my perception of them. Like any mother and daughter, we had difficult times, but we were so fortunate to come through them with greater love and respect for each other. Before she died, my mother was my best friend (next to my husband). I’m so thankful that I developed that closeness with her and maintained it during the years after I moved to Canada.

If I can look back in 20 years and feel that I’ve been even half as good to my child(ren) as my mom was to me and my brothers, then I think I will have done a pretty decent job. She was truly an amazing lady and I miss her more than words can ever adequately express.

*****

This post was based on the prompt “Ode to your mother…write about a special memory you have of your mom in honor of Mother’s Day.” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.

I originally posted this April 25, 2009. It is the perfect memory for this prompt. 

The most beautiful sweater in the world

As the leaves fell from the trees and the wind turned cold and blustery each year, my mom would drag out her traditional Christmas sweater.

I used to borrow it from her, putting it on and feeling cozy, wrapped in the scent of my mother. I loved the way she smelled. Subtly sweet, not overpowering. It was as if every thread of that sweater was infused with her, keeping me warm.

It was the perfect sweater to curl up in and watch a movie.

Years went by. My view of the world evolved. I began to look at the things I’d once enjoyed in a different light.

I began to see what was attractive to the world as more important than the people and things I cared the most about.

And

That once-comforting sweater became ugly.

Mom’s caring and generosity became commonplace, expected.

Unappreciated.

I became cold and complacent to family, taking them for granted.

I took her for granted.

This is what teenagers do, right?

Eventually, the sweater made fewer and fewer appearances. I’m not sure why. Maybe newer clothes took its place. Maybe she just got tired of it. I don’t know. I never thought to ask.

This is one of the thousands of little things I didn t notice until she was gone.

It only hit me after she died and I found the sweater in her things. I picked it up and smelled it, hoping to recapture that feeling from my childhood. Hoping to feel her embrace me as I slipped it on for the first time in almost 20 years.

I look at this sweater and it evokes a bittersweet, beautiful longing for the one person I cannot have.

***** 

This non-fiction post was inspired by The Red Dress Club red writing hood prompt: to write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly - and find the beauty in it. (Concrit is welcome.)